Predicts a decade needed to repair country after Gaza war

Bennett says he regrets ‘stupid’ 2021 election pledge not to sit with certain parties

Noting his broken vow not to join a government led by Lapid, former PM says he formed multi-party coalition to bring Israel out of electoral ‘chaos’

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett at the scene of a terror attack in Raanana on January 15, 2024 (Itai Ron /Flash90)
File: Former prime minister Naftali Bennett at the scene of a terror attack in Ra'anana on January 15, 2024. (Itai Ron /Flash90)

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett said he was mistaken to promise not to form a government with certain parties in the lead-up to the 2021 elections, after which he formed a multi-party coalition that included the centrist Yesh Atid and left-wing factions.

In a recent interview with the Five Fingers social movement, Bennett, who led the now-defunct Yamina party, said he regretted some of the decisions made during his political career, namely the promise he broke after the election that resulted in him becoming prime minister.

“I have to say — I didn’t keep a big election promise,” he said, appearing to refer to his vow not to sit in a government led by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and made up of left-wing parties.

“I said I won’t sit with this or that, and in the end, I sat with them. The reason I sat with them was to bring Israel out from the chaos of a fifth, sixth, and seventh election. The mistake was that I made a stupid promise from the beginning,” he said.

Bennett — a nationalist, religious prime minister whose Yamina won only seven seats in the 120-member Knesset — joined forces with left-wing, centrist, and other right-wing politicians in 2021 to form a first-of-its-kind coalition that included parties with conflicting worldviews, including an Arab Islamist party, Ra’am.

The move, which ousted Benjamin Netanyahu from the premiership after 12 consecutive years in office and followed an unprecedented political crisis that included four successive national elections in three years, made Bennett a pariah among much of the right for breaking his central election promise. It also led to an unrelenting and fiery campaign against him and his slim-majority power-sharing government with Lapid, which collapsed after some members of Bennett’s party succumbed to the pressure and helped topple the government.

The Netanyahu-led bloc won the subsequent election in November 2022 — in which Bennett did not run — and the premier formed a hardline government with ultra-Orthodox far-right parties.

Bennett also predicted during the interview that Israel will need a decade to recover from the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, saying politicians must set aside their ideologies and “be pragmatic.”

“No one needs to give up on their ideologies but we need to repair the country for ten years, and then return to the [political] debates,” he said.

Recent polling has shown that if Bennett, ex-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, and New Hope chair Gideon Sa’ar joined forces to form a new, moderate right-wing party, they would win 32 seats at an election and be well-placed to form a governing coalition.

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